10 Things I’ve Learned to Live Without as an Expat

It’s funny how you just get used to things. Take away modern conveniences like a garbage disposal or a microwave, and all of a sudden you find yourself emptying food waste in the trash or compost, and reheating leftovers on the stove without a second thought.

There are so many of these things I’ve learned to live without since I’ve moved abroad, but here are probably the top 10:

1. A decent shower.

Over the past few years I’ve learned that I had it good in Florida. Hot water, steady pressure—a shower head that was a comfortable distance from my skull. In Korea, I had one of those all-inclusive bathrooms where you shower over the toilet. In Colombia, I had a faucet that was heated by a faulty electric cord. Now in China, I am currently battling to keep the water anywhere between 15 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. I will, however, give props to Chinese showers for having heating lamps in the ceilings. Nicely done.

2. A bath tub.

Similar to the fancy shower I enjoyed in the States, I also took pleasure in a nice bath every now and then. Candles, a glass of red wine, possibly a little Sade playing in the background. Hey, don’t judge. I give you five minutes in a Jacuzzi tub with the sounds of smooth jazz tickling your ears. 

3. An oven.

As someone who loves to bake, this has been a hard loss. The truth is, most Asians don’t bake. And an oven is surprisingly not seen as a necessity in many countries. But on the plus side, I have become an expert at no-bake desserts.

4. A dryer.

This, I have realized, is luxury everywhere in the world. It has now been five years since I’ve had a dryer, and I still miss it. The way the warm clothes feel when you take them out of the dryer, the way your jeans shrink just enough to fit your waist, and the lint—oh the lint. A lint brush is something, unfortunately, I have not learned to live without.

5. Tampons.

My apologies to the male readers, but the struggle is real. Tampons are a Western thing, and ladies around the world do just fine with pads or menstrual cups. What? You don’t know what a menstrual cup is? Do yourself a favor and get yourself one!

6. Shoe shopping.

I remember the days of roaming the aisles of DSW with girlfriends, spending hours trying on heels and prancing around in front of mirrors. Those days are long gone. As a size 8.5, my feet are considered enormous in Asia. My roommate in Korea, Chris, even referred to them as “skis” to salesmen. Oh, Chris, how I miss you.

7. Highlights.

Though possible in some countries to find a good colorist, I have personally given up, praising God (and Hollywood) for making ombre cool.

8. A solid Internet connection.

This is not true everywhere, as the best connection speed I’ve experienced was in Seoul. However, I could only call my family at certain hours on certain days while living in Bogota, as I had to wait for other tenants in the building to get offline. And in China… well, let’s just say Big Brother is reading this (on his VPN).

9. A car.

This is something I have happily given up.  Cars for me are like boats to others: money pits. There’s always something that needs fixing. Gas prices are always rising. And uninsured motorists are just waiting to rear-end you when you’re at a stoplight. And even on days when things are going smoothly, there’s always the possibility a bird will take a large dump on your window. 

10. More material possessions that I can comfortably fit into three suitcases.

This is something that initially scared the crap out of me. The thought of getting rid of everything that didn’t fit into a few pieces of luggage seemed impossible. But now that I’ve done it more times than I can count, I assure you there’s no better feeling. Being able to live lightly reminds you of what’s really important. It also affords you the luxury of moving to a new and exciting place without paying overage fees. But more importantly, it teaches you that as an expat, there are in fact many things we can learn to live without. 

Tell me: What are some of the things you’ve gotten used to not having? What could you live without?

3 thoughts on “10 Things I’ve Learned to Live Without as an Expat”

  1. I miss farmers markets and cheap organic products. I stuff all packages sent to me and my luggage with tampons.

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